KELVIN MBEWE, Chilanga
LEGEND has it that Chilanga, now a district, used to have a township called Mtendere.
But few residents of Chilanga or even the council can pointedly say where this township was (or is) located.
What they know rather are Musamba, Games and Fisheries, Tapville, Mapepe and the famous Freedom townships.
“What I know is that Freedom is demarcated into sections, one part is called Mtendere and the other part is called Freedom,” says Paul Sukwa, a barber in Freedom township. “My voter’s card says Mtendere E, I don’t know where the name came from but I think it is for easy identification and calculation during elections.”
And the council official at the district could not be helpful as well.
“What I know is that Mtendere is just a name of a polling district in Freedom township, there is nothing unique about this. When you go to Chawama township, there are other polling districts with different names,” the official said.
But the polling station called Mtendere is at Salvation Army Church within Freedom township.
It is all too confusing, especially when you talk to the residents.
“I have stayed here for over 30 years, and I know that Freedom [township] has some areas called Mtendere, not many people know about this, Mtendere is the original name but after independence, it was decided that it is changed to Freedom,” says Mika Mwenya, a resident of Freedom township.
But Leonard Mwanza claims the name Freedom came from Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda.
“I came here [in Freedom] in 1978 before the new Lafarge plant was set up. The father of Panji Kaunda, Kenneth Kaunda is the one that gave it the name and he organised people who took part in the fight for independence to settle here,” he says.
Mr Mwanza says a lot has changed in the area over the years.
“The police was where the current UCZ [United Church of Zambia] is, am talking about decades ago before Zimbabwe got its independence. This entire place was a bush and most of these houses where maize fields.”
Well, what is known is that Chilanga was a township, which, like most towns in the country was a colonial settlement for white settlers and expatriates.
When you check the history of the area, Freedom or indeed Mtendere does not feature anywhere; only in recent history.
“Those that are calling this place [Freedom] Mtendere are lost, the easiest way to know if their voter’s cards are genuine is by checking where all the registered voters are recorded. I suspect that they were swapped with people from Mtendere [in Lusaka]. They will confuse you, my voter’s card says Chawama, because freedom is under Chawama constituency and not Chilanga,” Amon Sichula says.
Of course, much of Chilanga owes its existence to the cement plant, Lafarge, formerly known as Chilanga.
The Chilanga Estates to the east of the Post Office, was for employees of Chilanga Cement (now Lafarge) while Musamba, which is situated within, and nearer to the factory, used to be for the African factory employees.
On the other hand, the so called Game, which is to the north and south of the main tarmac off Kafue Road, was for the employees of the National Parks and Wildlife Services, which changed to the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) before reverting back to a department under the Ministry of Tourism and Arts. And to the south of Kafue Road, was the compound called Game for black African employees. Then, in the outskirts, were the various farms and villages. It was only after Zambia gained independence from Britain that most white settlers left and Africans began to occupy the estates, yards and farm lands. In fact, by the beginning of the 1980s, almost all of Chilanga was resettled by black Zambians. There are pockets of whites living within the area still.
The most famous school in Chilanga, Parklands, was for the white settlers while Chilanga Primary School, which is on the main road, was for the Africans. Other schools in the area included Mapepe and Musamba Primary Schools, which now looks dilapidated although it is understood that the new school administration is trying to rehabilitate it.
Parklands School first started as a primary before becoming a basic school in the late 1980s. The primary section was phased out at the school in the late 1990s. Parklands was the first secondary school in Chilanga and still remains the most preferred school for most residents of the area. Those who grew up in Chilanga will tell you that they attended Parklands School.
The clinic, where public buses from Kulima Tower Bus Station in Lusaka like to stop, is situated on Kafue Road at the beginning of the Game compound although there is another clinic in Musamba.
For some time, the only filling station was BP [now Puma] near the Chilanga [Lafarge] Cement offices entrance. The main shopping centre was opposite the post office which consisted of the bakery and Mwachula Grocery. The bakery and Mwachula still remain standing. Those who love their drink can be found either at the post office or a place called Bangala near Mount Makulu Research Station.
Oh, and there is the rundown and neglected Mundawanga Zoo and Botanical Gardens, which were and is still run by the government through the National Parks and Wildlife Services.
The zoo and gardens are a sorry site and in recent years they have only made their name by hosting the Bob Marley or Peter Tosh Memorial shows. But the late Mr Chanda (known as the snake man) was for a long time the manager at Mundawanga which stocked a variety of indigenous and exotic creatures and attracted people from all over the country. The sounds of the animals could be heard kilometers away such as the early morning cries of peacocks and the late afternoon roaring of the lions.
It is a far cry from what it is today.
The Fisheries Department is supposed to be managing the small fish breeding ponds on the eastern side of the main road (T2) which are fed from Longridge Dam, named after the then Northern Rhodesian director of water affairs Tom Longridge.
You see, you did not know where the name Longridge came from.
Fish fingerlings were bred in the ponds and Longridge Dam as well as other dams throughout the country including Lake Kariba were stocked with Tilapia (bream) from these ponds. But people have since built in the dried up ponds. However Longridge Dam is still there and it has houses built around it and a social resort called Long Ridge Junction. It is a place of scenic beauty and tranquility.
The famous Freedom was a shanty township of mainly mud houses.
But could it have been the place known as Mtendere?
More investigations probably need to be done.